ISSA’s new Program Manager, REYN coordinator

- Blog | REYN Admin

ISSA is delighted to welcome a new Program Manager and REYN coordinator Stanislav Daniel.

You can read Stanislav’s biography on ISSA’s website
And his first contribution to the REYN blog below

Books change lives, including their own

Some weeks ago I had a chance to attend an international training in use of the living libraries, a concept which brings together the most unlikely people to share their stories. As living book talks about their adventures, share their joys and sorrows and dig deep in their memories, the readers then ask additional questions – one to one. A few minutes which can change attitudes. Can we use the concept to build bridges where they were completely destroyed by years of segregation?

In April this year the Czech Republic’s government released updated information about the so-called socially excluded localities. In comparison to the earlier research from 2006, the number of these localities doubled. With respect to early education, the research says that attendance of children at kindergarten varies significantly, from 10% in some to all children in others. In average, around one third of children from these localities attend kindergarten. Most of them stay home with their jobless parents, as unemployment rate is between 80 to 85%. Around 75% of inhabitants, of working age have only a primary school level of education. Approximately 22% of kids at primary schools attend ethnically homogeneous (Roma) schools.

The study from the Czech Republic illustrates the situation of many Roma and Travellers. In many localities we witness two completely separate worlds– Romani children don’t meet other kids, their parents don’t meet other parents; just like poor people who do not get the chance to talk to rich people, and the young who never encounter people of age. Only in this case the different ethnicity multiplies the differences and the chances for interaction get very close to zero. If we want to keep communication channels alive in their heterogeneity, we need to make a greater effort.

Thanks to the living library training I not only learned the basics about the concept, but also had a chance to become a living book and see other living books. For some of us, sharing our story may not be such a hard achievement. (You are reading my blog post, aren’t you?) But for others, it is a life-changing experience. For Roma who sought asylum in Italy and remain in statelessness, it is not every day that they have an opportunity to share their life story.

Living libraries help bring together the most unusual combinations of people, across social groups and despite everyday separation. Now it is the turn of REYN to seek-out opportunities on how to use them at a larger scale. Rational arguments do not work when trying to fight stereotypes and prejudice. It is the enigmatic human touch that builds understanding between people. Let’s make use of it.